Monday, June 26, 2006

Recent Notes to Self...

So lately things have been going reasonably well... last night Mike and I sat down and worked out some musical ideas for his upcoming production of "The Adding Machine"... wherever Mike finds to put the play on, you should come see it... it should be running the last two weekends in July, and it's a fascinating play...

Prior to that, I spent a wonderful weekend doing what I love most, playing music for audiences... first, Saturday night, Fist of Kong and The Defenestration Unit played an unprecedented combined performance, wherein FOK started off playing, and midway through, was joined by the remaining members of TDU for a nice lengthy improv based on "Space is the Place"... though I seriously overestimated the amount of time we spent on stage, resulting in the two bands playing for a total of an hour as opposed to an hour apiece, it was still a great show, and I think maybe the shortened play-time was a good thing, as one hour of nonstop free improv is easier to take than two... and we didn't stop... not until it was over... so at some point, I expect us to release a single-track, one-hour CD of the event... it really was a great show...

The following day (Sunday), TDU played during the afternoon at a benefit for the Houston Pet Placement League over at Helios... that was a great time... Million Year Dance played before us, so I got to catch some of their set... not a fan of their lead singer, but the music was pretty cool... we got up and did our thing, and it too was pretty good... the sound was good there, which is always nice, especially when it's just a room and a single small PA.. fortunately that was all we needed... it wasn't quite as great a show as the previous night, but there was only really one moment where I felt like I was lost and didn't know what to do or what was going on, and for spontaneous free improv, even modal and vamp-based, that's really not bad... they can't all be 100% doubt-free shows...

Linus is also doing very well... we've got two shows coming up, one July 15th, and one August 5th... we're rehearsing for them now, and doing pretty well... we've got just a few more songs to record before we're largely wrapped up with recording... for now, at least.. I think we have to do live "everyone-in-the-room" versions of "Hawg" and "Enchirito", and then studio versions of "She Bad, She Thowed" and "Waiting for the Axe"... I THINK we'll be done then.. and then comes the trick of figuring out what to do with this large surplus of recorded material... my personal vote is to release a double-CD of everything... given our rep for excess, it feels like Linus would be the perfect band to finally release a double album... I like double albums... they lack focus and all, but I think the tradeoff is that you get variety, and a sneak-peek into the stuff a band would normally not air to the world... you get the warts-and-all look at a band, and you get to hear not only the stuff they've decided is the best and most representative and finely honed music they have to offer, but also the stuff that fell between the cracks, the experiments, the flirtations with other musical genres, etc. etc... the stuff that makes a band more interesting and three-dimensional... lord knows, I gained a LOT of respect for the Beatles after I heard the White Album, and I always felt that Exile on Main Street was the best Rolling Stones album ever... while most double albums really AREN'T the very best a band has to offer, they're usually the most interesting album a band has to offer, because of the variety and inclusiveness that the double-album format encourages... so anyway, that's my hope... other ideas are to do what most bands would do, and slough off all but the very best stuff, and release a normal album of the very best stuff, or another decent idea, split the stuff into two albums and release them a year apart, so we don't have another three or four year delay between albums... who knows... I'm still voting for the double-CD idea, but really anything that gets most if not all of the material we've got in the can released will make me happy... I may like some songs more than others, but I honestly can't imagine never releasing that stuff...

Speaking of, I still have two recently-recorded solo albums just taking up space on my desk that I haven't figured out what to do with them yet... that's typical of me.. in my last blog I wrote about how what I really suck at is self-promotion, and here's an excellent example... Charlie Naked has a drone CD called "Factory Drones", and the Victor Dog (Charlie Naked/Charlie Horshack) has "This is a Bum Trip", and while I'm well on my way to coming up with good cover art for both (just need a few more photographs to work with), I have no idea what to do then... "Factory Drones" is literally just four drones of differing lengths and varying methods of conception, so obviously that's going to have a really limited sphere of appeal... there are labels for that sort of thing, I just have to find them and not get my hopes up too much... the other thing is probably a lot more salable, but it's also not as remarkable (in that it's just singer/songwriter stuff put to more interesting studio music) or uncommon, and I'm still not completely sold on needing to release it to the general public... even if I was, I'm just still not 100% how to, or in what way, through what venues, etc... I wish I had a manager or someone handling this crap for me... I love making music.. once I'm done making it though, I'd rather not mess with it anymore...

Anyway, that's that... talk to you all later...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Woody

Was a big high wall there/
That tried to stop me/
The sign was painted/
Said "Private Property"/
But on the back side it said nothing/
This Land was made for you and me.



Just got another Woody Guthrie Collection (like I need another) and in it is a version of This Land Is Your Land which has this stanza - brilliant!

Monday, June 19, 2006

I walk on Pigeon Poo

Ah, joy! The high concept Linus poster shoot! Oh, the joy of driving around town – pre-shoot site sortie (check), film (check), snacks (check). Clinton, Larry, and Austin Caustic can’t make it but have the good sense to let me know so it’s easy to adjust the concept. I called Mara to ask her to loan Kenny her shotgun (sans shells) for the shoot and she agrees. Naturally, any preparations are a vain attempt to control the uncontrollable.

Sure the Dimes, Gina, and Charlie show up on time (7ish) but as we get closer to the time to shoot (8pm), the rest of the Kimonos are looking more and more dodgy. Josh and Steve the two brothers are going to be late (one gets off of work at 8pm) and Kenny is nowhere to be found (mind you, Kenny’s car and Mara’s shotgun are central to the shoot). Soon, we’re running out of daylight and we have to roll out to the site. We finally get a hold of Kenny who knows nothing of the shoot and his car is dead. Great. Rosa’s older BMW may add a trashy Euro vibe so we recruit it but when we arrive at the Linus rehearsal space there is Stevie’s Car - a 70’s Impala. Perfect! Then at 8:45 with dwindling light, we finally throw our hands in the air and rapidly put the shoot together. The light, of course, is quite low by this time and, in the sudden rush to get to the space, Rosa dropped her tri-pod adapter causing the potential for the disastrous shots to increase exponentially as the required slow shutter speed is quite unforgiving to the most minor movement. Despite the diminishing light, Rosa works with what she has and we knock out the shots. Gina is in the foreground with a pistol facing off facing the Dimes who are exiting the Impala while Steve and Charlie (of Linus) are lying dead on the road. By this time it’s 9pm and still no Josh, Steve, or Kenny yet somehow I assume that they might still make it.

Given the dubious lighting conditions outside we decide to take a back-up shot inside the warehouse. To our thrill, the back of the warehouse at the LP4 rehearsal space is now covered in a layer of Pigeon poo thanks to a small crack somewhere in the 50 foot high glass ceiling. Naturally, the roaches love this! Then in a stroke of genius, Steve decides to arm the Dimes with some real and replicated firearms. The Dimes of course have no idea how to hold the props – varying from holding them in fear to waving them carelessly at people – so we immediately jump in and show them how to hold a firearm and how to not kill anyone. Mind you, rule #1, even if you have removed the bullets, you still act as if the gun is loaded. Rosa gets some shots despite there being a lot of giggling involved from cast and crew. By the time we're done it’s almost 10pm. At this point, we assume the rest of the Kimonos are no-shows and we let Kenny and Mara know that they can turn back. We’re beat but the Dimes grace is with their other talents: Jose shows-off his juggling while Iram demonstrates his skating moves. Who knew?

Well here is the result of all this work (though we’re still looking for the roll of film containing the exterior shots). My apologies to Michalangelo Antonioni.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Grunt! Me in Linus! Me play Rock!

Well another Linus practice.

It began with Clinton and I being very productive at Rudyard’s. Yes instead of discussing song arrangements or other such matters we discussed Neal Stevenson's literary merits and Peter Jackson's translation of JRRT. Level up! You are now a 7th level Geek.

Rehearsal itself was a bit more brutal. We just went over two songs. That's right - one rehearsal, two songs. You'd think it'd be easy but maybe Garage Rock and John Paul Jones are two things that were never meant to go together. Someday Linus will have its 2001 moment whereupon one member will have an epiphany and as he makes his way past cacophony of grunts and hollers of the others flinging their own poo he will proclaim " Oh my god, we're a bunch of fucking chimps!"

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Something Fierce/Belville Record Release (and the LP4 Posse explained)

Well after my bitch session about Walter’s on Friday, I can say Saturday ended up going off sans incident. Though, aside from the bands themselves, I didn’t know a soul there. I was just doing my part representin’ the late-80s to mid-90’s peeps as the LP4 delegate. Now you ask how come we never see you at shows with an LP4 posse? The answer is we’re all old men. I am the guy who has to get up at 6 am every morning with my 4 year old. So, my going out has a big price the next day. Despite this I do get out occasionally to go see live local music because after a 3 year hiatus from clubs Rosa kind of encouraged me to go and see what the fuck is going on quoting Kurt Brennan’s pithy comment that “People who complain how the scene sucks now are people who never get out.” So, with a little push from Rosa, a bit over a year ago I’ve actually had my eyes opened to all the amazing bands in Houston. Since then, I’ve been going down my list of local bands I admire when we book a Linus show. Being lazy, this is just my way of seeing these bands and playing a show – killing two birds with one stone.

Now the rest of Linus can sleep late so their case is a little different. Steve is usually recording bands in his studio. Charlie, meanwhile, is in so many projects that he’s usually rehearsing for something. Rouge member Carol Kelly is even busier than Charlie with projects that cover everything from photography to music yet she actually goes out to a lot of shows – they are just mainly noise shows. Clinton meanwhile is the all American male sports guy who has even pre-empted Linus practices for Astros games. Now some may scoff at this but I say, if this allows Clinton to master his awesome Bar-B-Q skills, this is a net good for society. Flip doesn’t even live in Houston anymore which leaves Larry and what can I say but the fact that Larry lives in Pearland. That’s pretty much it - Linus are old farts. Being one of these old farts not to mention a social misfit who has to be up for morning reveille I have to really really want to go see a show to get my ass out of the house and more often than not that means local shows. I don’t know why but national acts don’t interest me very much at the moment which brings me to the matter at hand - the Something Fierce/.belvile record release at Walter’s.

The opening band Carousel Shy seemed like a kind of nice pop band. I only caught the last two songs in their set so don’t expect a review here but may I suggest a sponsorship with Birkenstock guys? Everyone, and I mean everyone, in that band was wearing sandals! I also kept wondering why this one guitarist never got up off his chair during the songs I saw. I kept thinking, as another band member handed him a guitar during an instrument change, now that is one masterfully lazy guitarist but it was later revealed that he had just had an appendicitis which was admittedly kind of disappointing.


The Dimes meanwhile seem to be getting a bit sloppy on their band look as only a few members maintained the preppie school vest uniform they’ve been known for. But the great thing about the Dimes is that the preppie school schtick is hardly necessary as they have gone from being a really good local band to a really great band since I first saw them at Super Happy Fun Land. Back then I was amused by the fact that these High School kids had a reference point of late 70s New York. Usually high school bands are too daft to have references beyond commercial radio, the current alternative bands, or fashion. Yet, The Dimes took their reference point from much earlier which I found unique and quite sophisticated. But the Dimes are not simply a facsimile, they definitely are their own thing going. The beauty is that the band’s sound has caught up to their ideas. The two things to watch in this band are the drummer Iram Guerrero (who is a monster despite his meek appearance behind the kit) and Guitarist Cley Miller ( who has some lovely sounds from his array of pedals). I spoke at length with Iram about their upcoming recording session and how I hoped that they could capture that elusive live sound. I was glad that he acknowledged that their songs on Myspace were sub-par recordings which was funny because at the last Linus rehearsal I tried to play those to the LP4 only to have to qualify it by saying “Uh, gee they sound much better live.” And you know when you say that nobody believes you. But trust me, go see them and you will also scoff at their Myspace page demos as you come to appreciate them for being the great band they are.

Belville followed with a fine set of emotional vocal driven alt-rock. Belville’s sound is a bit different that what I usually find interesting. If you could try to peg them down I’d say mix in a bit of the more earnest Paul Westerberg and Soul Asylum with some Kurt Cobain and you’d have a good idea of what they sound like. The music here is clearly driven by the vocals which occasionally cede the spotlight to touches of interesting guitar work (nice big muff there Jay). Rosa can attest that I know few words to songs and that’s because my ears are generally drawn to the instruments and, given that the emotion in this kind of music comes from the vocal performance, I tend to be drawn more to bands where the vocals are merely part of an ensemble of sounds. There are two types of Replacements fans. One believes that Paul Westerberg is a sensitive singer songwriting genius while the other realizes that Replacements were four people. The second Westerberg tossed Bob Stinson and his guitar work, it was over. It wasn’t just the songs but the ensemble and, while it was just a four piece rock band, every person has something interesting to say when you listen to the recordings. So here is my thing with Belville, they have some solid songcrafting and the record sounds gorgeous (it really does) but, to become great, every member has to have their voice contribute in a way that does more than just provide a backdrop for the vocals. Now is that just a guitarist’s bias? You bet it is! Belville aren’t stupid, this is the sound they are going for and this is the way you play it. Jay’s a smart fellow and can take my criticism forthright, process it, and tell me I am totally full of shit and I have to admire that because he is making the kind of music he wants without compromise and that’s Punk baby.

Oh wait. I can’t close my critique without the most memorable moment. I don’t know who this guy was in the front but he was really really really into Belville. I mean really and when they would play a song he’s shout “OH YEAH!”, “Roooooooock!”, or “Fuck Yeah!” while making the Dio devil sign. Now that was fine for the more rocking songs but the guy was so into it that even when a quiet and sensitive song played he would not cease and desist which was pretty hilarious. Now I ask you how come Linus doesn’t get love like this?

Something Fierce meanwhile played an amazing set of Punky Punk. Again, who was the star of the band? That’s right the drummer. How many times do I have to say it? Your band lives or dies by its drummer. Guitarists, Vocalists and everyone else ain’t shit without one bad ass drummer. Andrew is more than just the unstoppable Red Fro of comic book fame – he is a freaking beast on the kit while Nikki’s basswork and Steven’s guitarwork cut ahead of him like an army slicing its way through its opponents. The set was just a non-stop barrage of noise and sweat. What the fuck more do you want? What more do you need? It’s just the musical equivalent of being coldcocked for 40 minutes. Ouch!

One last comment before I go and that is that my pants (which has had a small tear in the back left pocket) decided to finally rip into a big-ass hole revealing to everyone my lovely red boxers. Climbing on top of a monitor to take shots has its risks and mooning a crowd people is just on of them.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Friday 09 June 2006 (Music, Good! Bartender, Bad)

[More pictures of this show are on my account at: Flickr.com]

Well Walter’s is on my shit-list after Friday’s show. While Roy is a super-nice guy and the club is generally OK all it takes is one dickweed bartender to make you want to blow a place off.

So just to get my bitching out of the way, let me share with you the big moment of the evening. I’d invited Karen to come see the Sharks and Sailors; Jonx; and Motion Turns It On show. Karen, being the trooper, agreed despite being a bit tired from going out with some friends on Thursday. So she comes out and orders a water from the buzz-cut non-Roy bartender who takes her order with a huff. Later in the evening, Karen says that she’s going to grab a beer and heads to the bar. Roy is busy by the taps and the other guy is slowly moving toward us at the bar. Then, he makes this left sweep towards us. He points to the guy to Karen’s left (he’s ok), he points to me and my half finished beer (I point to Karen), he looks at Karen and walks away. Arms go up! “NO!” “He did NOT just do that!” “OOOOH! Man!” To stay would have been undignified if she’d have ignored it or bloody if she’d given the idiot what-for so, with a “Fuck this!”, Karen leaves with her dignity intact. I came close to leaving but I felt some commitment to shoot some good shots of S&S and stuck around despite losing all the happy momentum of the evening. So after Saturday’s belvile/ Something Fierce record release party I am boycotting Walter’s for the foreseeable future.

But it wasn’t all about the sucky bartender and the resulting fact that I hardly got to talk at all with Karen. Simply put – nix the anti-Roy bartender and it would have been a really cool evening. I did get to meet with some of the Sharks and Sailors peeps - I briefly spoke with Allen and spoke at length with Melissa. Not surprisingly, they were very nice, personable, and interesting people. As usual the Jonx were super nice. Plus, I also got to give some good humored jabs at Chris and Roy of Gods Temple for pussing out of the Rudz show on Tuesday with Whorehound and Golden Axe and they, not being arrogant wusses, actually took it in good humor. Did I mention the asshole bartender? OK! OK! OK! Onto the music…

I came in during Motion Turns it On’s set. I think the guitarist does much more interesting stuff in Dizzy Pilot but this is his instrumental band and they play what they play very well. There are interesting elements and ideas but to be honest I don’t think it amounts to much despite the blur of notes. The most interesting element of the band is the keyboardist who plays in a pretty unique style that mixes a lot of interesting electronic sounds with the more straightforward notes. Maybe they might turn out more interesting in the future but for right now I find it a bit underwhelming.

The Jonx! The Jonx! It was really great to see the Jonx again! Here is a band that follows in that amazing tradition of bands with drummers who sing. You know what I’m talking about Genesis, The Eagles, and Night Ranger. Yeah, Night Ranger. The Jonx are exactly like Night Ranger if Night Ranger didn’t play pop metal, dress like idiots, could write interesting songs, and generally not suck ass. But all Kidding aside they (the Jonx you putz not Night Ranger!) never fail to amaze me! Danny and Trey are an amazing rhythm section while Stu’s spindly guitar work is the kind of that reminds me what a lazy ass guitarist I really am. Now if they can just capture this sound on record. The first album is decent but there is simply no comparison to what these guys are capable of doing live. But I’ve always thought that American bands by nature sound best live. Pink Floyd, the Beatles, or Radiohead – all fine bands – but just take Jesus Lizard, John Spencer, or Albert Collins and ask anyone whose seen them live if the recording or the live experience is what they treasure most. It’s not a bad place to be.

Sharks and Sailors also suffer from the same issue of how to capture what they do live. On their three song EP, they sound like a mutant child of Superchunk but live they have this massive unstoppable sound driven by Phil’s drums and filled out by the heavy proggy “I know you guys have some King Crimson in your record collection” guitar/bass lines. These guys hate 4/4 and they can make it work because it’s not just showing off, they can actually build something up from the swirling notes and rip it up. Like the Jonx, this is a band where there is no star in the band; here is simply a collective of people who know how to work together to produce a unique sound. The interesting thing about an ensemble like this is that at any moment anyone in the band is doing something interesting. This is the second time I see them live and they were just as amazing on Friday (though I will admit the sound was not quite as good as the Rudyard’s sound they got a few weeks ago). I’m definitely looking forward to playing with them in August.

By the way, if there is anything to be learned from my weekend of great local bands is that you will know who rocks by how great and distinctive their drummer is. But I’ll go into that tomorrow when I go into Something Fierce, Dimes and Belvile's Saturday show.. It’s late and I have just scanned the last of my negatives in and I have to prep them for the web.